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Fuller Working Lives – Why We Need Older Workers!

Beta Futures were honoured to be in Birmingham earlier this month, alongside other organisations such as Aviva, HS2, Toyota and Eversheds to attend the Fuller Working Lives strategy launch announced by the Minister of State for Employment, Damian Hinds.

The strategy is tackling the challenges of an ageing population and in particular how we incorporate that population into the workforce
We have more people aged 50 and over in employment than ever before, but they’re still an underappreciated and underrepresented group. To add to that, they are exiting the labour market earlier than they would like. In fact, the average age of leaving the labour market is not keeping pace with the increases in life expectancy.

Employers are in the driving seat when removing the barriers for older workers, however, it’s not just employers we need to reach out to. Keeping older people in work is beneficial across all of society. We have a bias, bordering on an unhealthy obsession with youth, from the magazines to the workplace, and in a rapidly evolving world we are always looking to bring in the new and discard the old. As far as technology and innovations go – fair enough. But, if we apply that same rule to older workers we are doing everyone a disservice, and yes that includes the younger generation. Why? Because a multi-generational workforce has benefits for everyone. Most importantly it contributes to economic growth which in turn means more job opportunities – for younger workers too!

Anyone that’s sat with an older parent, grandparent, relative, friend or even had a chat at the bus stop with the quirky older gentleman will know that there’s nothing quite comparable to the wisdom of older people. The current older generation are a group of people that will eventually become extinct – who have grown up without technology and are the only generation to witness how rapidly the world has changed in the last couple of decades. That experience alone desperately needs to be savoured in the workplace to influence business and shape the economy for the better. The different ideas, perspectives and knowledge older workers have is something younger employees can also draw on to improve their own skills and is invaluable experience that can’t be bought or learned anywhere else.

We all age, it’s probably the only certain thing in life, and by the looks of it we’re going to be living longer. Therefore, embedding the worth of older workers into society’s values now will ensure generations to come will also reap the benefits. As the way we live changes, so will have to the way we work in order to ensure we stay happy and healthy – staying in work longer makes a significant difference to income as well as mental and physical wellbeing. That makes it not only beneficial for an individual to stay in work, but reduces the strain on our health and benefit services.

Only good can come from retraining and retaining older workers. Its high-time we as employers and young employees acknowledge that and in a world obsessed with innovation and adaption, we adapt to our changing demographics first and foremost to keep our economy thriving and avoid loss of labour, while squeezing as much wisdom from our older generation – the last of its kind, while we still can.